Coolbaroo Club


This hour-long documentary gives an astonishing insight into the life of an East Perth dance club—the Coolbaroo Club—run by the Nyoongar Aboriginal community and for all Aboriginal people and their (few) white supporters between 1946 and 1960.

The film gives a very good background to the situation for Aboriginal people in Perth in the post-World War II years. Aboriginal people, excluded from white social clubs and venues, began organising their own dances at a hall in East Perth —the Coolbaroo Club.

The hugely popular dances were attended by Aboriginal people from all over the area. The Coolbaroo Club also attracted black musicians from around the world, including Nat 'King' Cole, Harold Blair and the Harlem Globetrotters, who could not perform for Aboriginal people in any other venue.

Although best-remembered for the hugely popular Coolbaroo dances attended by hundreds of Aboriginal people and their white supporters, the Coolbaroo League, founded by club members, ran a newspaper and became an effective political organisation, speaking out on issues of the day affecting Aboriginal people.

Overall the documentary is powerful and inspiring, capturing an episode of Aboriginal history that is barely known.

More shaming than a hundred news stories, this chirpy, dignified and scathing documentary by Roger Scholes does more than just recall a less tolerant time and place. In a modest way, it lifts the lid on postwar relations in this country. Some wonderful interviews with feisty former club members, especially several still remarkably articulate old women. This is a shaming documentary but an educative and surprisingly forgiving one. — Robert Drewe, Sydney Morning Herald, July 1996


Release dates
1996 - Australia
Winner - 1996 Human Rights Award
G - general
Beyond Distribution
Lucky Oceans, performed by Lois Olney

Directed in collaboration with Aboriginal historian and author, Steve Kinnane.

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Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, Coolbaroo Club, <>, retrieved 22 September 2019

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